In addition to summarizing the latest research and documenting the benefits of breastfeeding, the revised policy statement addresses the following key points:
In the previous AAP breastfeeding policy statement, there was a difference of opinion among AAP experts on the recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding. The Section on Breastfeeding supported 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding followed by introduction of complementary foods while the Committee on Nutrition supported 4 months of exclusive breastfeeding followed by introduction of complementary foods. Both groups have reached consensus in the new statement. The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.
Conceptual change: The decision to breast feed is not a lifestyle choice but rather a basic and critical health decision regarding infant welfare. This conclusion is based on the evidence that breastfeeding provides a protective effect against infant and child infections, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The benefit of breastfeeding extends into adulthood with lower rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease risk factors, diabetes and malignancies.
High-risk premature infants should be fed an exclusive human milk diet to minimize risk of infection, need for GI surgery, and to enhance their long-term neurodevelopment.
The World Health Organization growth curves should be used to monitor the growth of breastfed infants to minimize mislabeling infants as poor growers, as breast milk is the standard normative basis of infant nutrition.
Further success in facilitating mothers to initiate breastfeeding and to continue to exclusively breastfeed for about 6 months requires a combination of knowledgeable professional support for the maternal-infant dyad, public policies such as the Baby Friendly Hospital campaign, and labor laws that require employers to provide employee facilities and time for breastmilk pumping and storage.